Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2007

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

BY PAT YEVICS  

Need Resources or Benefits? You’ve Come to the Right Place

I am often stunned when a member suggests carrying a benefit that the MSBA already offers. I can only assume that we do not take notice of what services and benefits are offered until they are required. This month, I will take the opportunity to remind members of the services that our department (LOMA) and other departments at the MSBA provide. I know it is often difficult to remember what services we offer, but they are always listed on the website under Member Benefits and Services for your reference. Get ready, because we are going to let you know how we can help you. Pay attention; there is going to be a quiz at the end.

Member Benefits

There are many items listed on the member benefits page (www.msba.org/departments/membership/benefit.htm). For instance, some of the vendors that provide discounts/services to members include:

  • Office Depot. Members can receive discounts on more than 14,000 catalog items, order online and receive free next-day delivery. There is a link to a form which you send to Office Depot for your number to receive these discounts.

  • Postini Anti-Virus Protection and Spam-Filtering. This is a service provided through System Source. We use this product at Bar Headquarters, and I think it is a great way to minimize your spam and protect your computers.

  • Medical, life, disability and dental insurance. At Franklin Morris, our endorsed agent, you can find the best product for your firm. They do not sell one particular product and will try the best options for your particular needs.

  • Credit Card Processing Services. More and more practitioners are accepting credit cards for payments. MBSA maintains a relationship with Bank of America to offer its members not just credit cards for their own use but for credit card processing services as well.

  • Document management solutions. Advance Office Systems does more than just sell copiers. They help practitioners with scanning and document management issues.

  • Free legal research through FastCase. Always remember that the MSBA offers all of its members free legal research using FastCase. Although it is for members only, you do not need to register or sign up to use it. You simply need to click on the FastCase icon at www.msba.org, give your member ID and use it. There is nothing more to it.

Other Helpful Services

  • Ethics Hotline. This is a monthly list of members on the Ethics Hotline (www.msba.org/departments/membership/ethics_hotline.htm)

  • Law Office Management Assistance. Articles on office management and technology and lists of information packets are available for members (www.msba.org/departments/loma/index.htm)

  • ABA publications. There is also a list of many ABA publications which MSBA members can purchase at a discount of 30 percent off non-ABA member prices (www.msba.org/departments/membership/abapubs.htm)

  • ID badges. Applications for Court House ID badges can be found at www.msba.org/departments/administration/idbadge.htm. They can be printed and mailed to the MSBA for your ID Badge.

  • Member Directory. All MSBA members are listed on the website (unless they have requested to not be listed). It is possible to search on a variety of ways to find a lawyer. The directory is available to the general public. Members of the public can search on last name, law firm, county, practice area, section membership and state. For example, a member of the public could find a family law lawyer from Baltimore County who is licensed in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

  • Publications. The Table of Contents for all editions of the Maryland Bar Journal are listed on the website, and many of the articles from the Bar Bulletin are also online at www.msba.org/departments/commpubl/publications/index.htm. We also have six months of MSBA Bar Briefs and Bar Events listed online.
    Did you also know that practitioners can purchase many of the MSBA Legal Information Brochures? A list of all legal brochures and the text of each are available online, as well as ordering information, can be found at www.msba.org/departments/commpubl/publications/brochures/index.htm.

  • Career Center. The Young Lawyers Section sponsors the Legal Career Center where attorneys and employers can go to find or list jobs. This is a national search engine and can be found at http://www.jobtarget.com/home/index.cfm?site_id=12317.

  • Legal Vendor E-Mall. This is the place to go to find vendors that provide services and products specific to the legal community in Maryland (www.msba.org/links/emall/default.asp). This should be the first place you look to find what your firm needs.

For Members Only

These sites can only be accessed by entering your MSBA e-mail and password.

  • Electronic Bar Briefs (EBB). This is a service that will e-mail you daily a synopsis of Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals opinions (www.msba.org/members/ebb/index.htm). It is free and for members only. You can choose from a list of 15 practice areas.

  • Ethics Opinions. A searchable, printable list of all MSBA Ethic Opinions is available online at www.msba.org/members/default.asp.

  • Mentoring Program. This is a list of 250 members of the MSBA who have volunteered to answer questions on a variety of topics (www.msba.org/members/default.asp). They are listed by county and have practice area information.

  • Sections. More and more MSBA Sections and Committees are posting information about their meetings, events and other information on their websites. Many have also started conducting surveys. There is a list of all Section Council members. Section newsletters are also available online for Section members only. A list of all Sections can be found at www.msba.org/sec_comm/index.htm.

Most Sections have very active and helpful Email Lists, but you must belong to a Section to participate. A list of all Email Lists is at www.msba.org/sec_comm/lists/index.htm.

Resources and Information

Through LOMA we provide information on many software applications. We have a small library of reviews and articles describing various software packages. We try to keep the reviews as up to date as possible, and we will forward that information to any member who requests it. For a list of the reviews we have available, please visit www.msba.org/departments/loma/infopacks.htm.

Our office receives many calls each week from new and experienced practitioners regarding such matters as equipment, accounting, technology, etc. We have created many information packets that assist solo practitioners with these requests. Some of the information is located directly on our website while others will need to be requested and mailed to you. For articles on the website, go to www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm; for a list of other articles, please visit www.msba.org/departments/loma/infopacks.htm. The information is on starting a practice, marketing and client development, office management, characteristics of an efficient practice and technology tips.

We have become the telephone help desk for law practice management and technology for solo and small firm practitioners throughout the state, receiving more than 50 calls a week for advice or information. If you have any questions and do not know where to start, call our office. We may not be able to answer all your questions, but we can find someone who can.

We also make available to our members ABA publications that relate to technology or law practice management issues. They are available for a discount online at http://www.msba.org/departments/membership/discounts.htm.

We have a "How to Start a Solo Packet" which is a package of items which must be considered when starting a solo practice.

Additionally, each month's issue of the Bar Bulletin features a "Solo and Small Firm Practitioner" column on topics of interest to solo/small firm practitioners, either written by a solo practitioner or myself. The column is practical and offers tips and suggestions on managing a small law office as well as free additional information on a variety of topics.

Educational Programs

We cosponsor programs with local bar associations on issues relating to efficiently managing a solo practice. These programs have been designed for experienced practitioners as well as new practitioners. Almost all of our programs are scheduled on Saturdays or evenings to make it easier for solo and small firm practitioners to attend. In addition to the law practice management programs with local bars, we also present a Solo and Small Firm Conference each November. This all-day program features as many as 25 different sessions on topics such as technology, profitability, employees, marketing, client development, stress and time management and other pertinent issues for solo and small firm practitioners. In addition, MICPEL sponsors a track with legal topics. Also in attendance are many vendors with services and products specifically for solo and small firm practitioners.

In conjunction with the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, we also have three "How to Start a Solo Practice" programs each year to assist new practitioners in setting up a law practice. The programs are always held on the last Saturdays in January and June and are usually held in Laurel. The next program will be at the Holiday Inn in Laurel on June 30, 2007. The third program is scheduled on the Friday before the Solo Conference, November 3, at the BWI Marriott. The topics covered are marketing, business aspects of starting a practice, how to avoid malpractice, attorney/client relationships, etc. All of the presenters are experienced members of the bar who have practical advice for new practitioners.

In 1999, the Solo and Small Firm Section was able to sponsor Solo Day at the MSBA Annual Meeting. This was created specifically to give solo and small firm practitioners the opportunity to attend the MSBA Annual Meeting for one day of educational programs designed specifically for solo and small firm practitioners. It is on a Friday, and entails a one-day registration fee.

This year's Solo Day is on Friday, June 15, and there will be sessions on the changes to Rule 1.15, a mock trial for Workers' Compensation, a demonstration on e-filing, information for non-real estate lawyers on how to represent your client at a settlement and the ever-popular tech program. This year's afternoon speaker will be retired Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, talking about how solos and small firm practitioners can and should use the resources of the Attorney General's office.

Then there is the Solo and Small Firm Conference, which will be held this year on Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4 at the BWI Marriott. On Friday, in addition to the "How to Start a Solo Practice Track", there will be a half-day program on the basics of starting to become a paperless office. For more information on how to get started with this technology, mark your calendars.

This is just a snapshot of all the services we provide through the MSBA, Law Office Management and the website. There is so much more. For more information, go to www.msba.org, or contact Pat Yevics at (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039, or pyevics@msba.org. Remember, if I do not have the answer, I will help you find it.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March 2007